Stephen King, an evil car, and a teenage boy coming to terms with the fragility and randomness of life.... Wait, haven't we read this before? Diehard King fans, worry not. Aside from the titular car playing a main role in the story, From a Buick 8
could not be less like King's 1983 masterpiece, Christine
. If anything, this story resembles King's serial novel The Green Mile
, with reminiscing police characters flashing back on bizarre events that took place decades earlier.
The book's intriguing plot revolves around the troopers of Pennsylvania State Patrol Troop D, who come into possession of what at first appears to be a vintage automobile. Closer inspection and experimentation conducted by the troopers reveal that this car's doors (and trunk) sometimes open to another dimension populated by gross-out creatures straight out of... well, a Stephen King novel. As the plot progresses, the veteran troopers' tales of these visits from interdimensional nasties, and the occasional "lightquakes" put on by the car, are passed on to the son of a fallen comrade whose fascination with the car bordered on dangerous obsession.
Unlike earlier King works, there is no active threat here; no monster is stalking the heroes of the story, unless you count the characters' own curiosity. In past books, King has terrorized readers with vampires, werewolves, a killer clown, ghosts, and aliens, but this time around, the bogeyman is a more passive, cerebral threat, and one for which they don't make a ready-to-wear Halloween costume--man's fascination with and fear of the unknown. While some readers may find this tale less exciting than the horror master's earlier works, From a Buick 8 is a wonderful example of how much King's plotting skills and literary finesse have matured over his long career. And, most of all, it's a darn creepy book. --Benjamin Reese
From Publishers Weekly
King, we learn in an author's note, hashed out the plot of this gripper while driving from western Pennsylvania to New York. The first draft took two months to write. That's quick work, and it's reflected in the book's simplicity of plot and theme; unlike King's chewy last novel, Dreamcatcher, this one goes down like a shot of moonshine, hot and clean, much like Cujo, say, or Gerald's Game. In 1979, an odd man drives what at first glance looks like a 1954 mint-quality Buick Roadmaster up to a service station in rural Pennsylvania, then vanishes, leaving behind the car. The state police of Troop D deposit the vehicle in a shed near their barracks, where, up to the present, it remains a secret from all but cop colleagues for the car isn't exactly a car; it may be alive, and it certainly serves as a doorway between our world and... what? Another dimension? Another galaxy? The troopers never find out, despite their amateurish scientific investigations of it and of the weird beings that occasionally emerge from the vehicle's trunk: freaky fish, creepy flowers and more. Moreover, the "car" is dangerous: the day it appears, a state trooper disappears, and experiments over the years with cockroaches, etc., indicate that just as the car can spew things out, it will ingest them. While the book's relative brevity and simplicity does lend comparison to earlier King, and King has relied on a nasty car before (Christine), the author's stylistic maturity manifests in his sophisticated handling of the round robin of narrators (both first and third-person), the sharp portrayal of police ways and mores and the novel's compelling subthemes (loyalty, generational bondings) and primary theme: that life is filled with Buick 8s, phenomena that blindside us and that we can never understand. This novel isn't major King, but it's nearly flawless and one terrific entertainment.
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